Institutional Education Programs Brief History
Although education is a fundamental constitutional right in West Virginia, individuals placed in state institutions have had a long history of educational neglect. Individuals placed institutions for the mentally impaired and juvenile and adults placed in correctional settings have been the recipient of educational programs best classified as “custodial care.” Many individuals received no educational services. Many individuals were institutionalized because services in the community were non-existent. The condition of educational programs in state institutions in the 1970’s and 1980’s drew the attention of the courts and legislature.
Medley Consent Decree
In 1978, a federal civil rights action, Medley et al. v. Ginsberg et al. was filed against the state departments of health and welfare, community mental health centers and the state superintendent of schools. The plaintiff was a 17 year old mentally disabled girl (Macel Medley) who had been unnecessarily institutionalized because of a lack of community services. In 1979, the case evolved into a class action suit. As a result of this action, the defendants entered into a consent decree in 1981 pledging to implement a comprehensive plan for the development of community based services for developmentally disabled persons in West Virginia.
The comprehensive plan under the Medley Consent Decree called for two major initiatives by the state superintendent of schools: (1) the implementation of educational programs in state institutions for the mentally disabled, and (2) the development of county school district programs for the delivery of special education and related services within the community. In implementing the former, on February 1, 1984, the Department of Education initiated direct educational services via the employment of teachers, administrators and service personnel in the Colin Anderson Center, Greenbrier Center, Lakin State Hospital, and Weston State Hospital. This action added a unique function to the roles and responsibilities of the State Superintendent of Schools and State Board of Education, that is, the administration of a “special school district” for institutionalized persons.
The Office of Institutional Education Programs successfully achieved its mission in the Medley Consent Decree. From 1984 to 1991, the Department of Education provided a free appropriate public education to over 250 school-aged severely and profoundly mentally impaired individuals in institutions and, in conjunction with county school districts and other state agencies, assisted in moving the students and the services to the community. This deinstitutionalization program, one of the most successful in the nation, resulted in community living and a normalized environment for our state’s mentally impaired persons.
As an outgrowth of the Medley Consent Decree, the program at Lakin State Hospital for seriously emotionally disturbed adolescents was upgraded and moved to the Barboursville School.
Education in State Correctional Institutions
As a result of the success demonstrated by the Department of Education in the Medley education initiative, the West Virginia Legislature, in 1988, enacted reform legislation which transferred the responsibility for education within juvenile and adult state correctional institutions from the Department of Corrections to the State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Schools (WV Codes 18-2-13f; 18-20-5). This landmark reform legislation charged the State Board and State Superintendent with a duty to reform educational programs in state correctional institutions.
From July 1988 to the present, the Department has staffed and upgraded the educational programs in state correctional institutions. Court findings and federal and state non-compliances have been removed. Eight of eleven state correctional institutions have received national accreditation in education from the Correctional Education Association, a distinction marking the provision of high quality education services to persons in institutions.
In 1995, the State Legislature amended the aforementioned statutes to include educational programs in regional jails. As a result, the Department of Education, through the Office of Institutional Education Programs, presently provides educational services in eleven juvenile and adult state correctional institutions and eight regional jails.
Residential Foster Care Institutions
In the summer of 1991, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) declared that it would no longer support education services in residential foster care institutions. To ensure that youth at the Abraxas Center (presently Pressley Ridge at White Oak Village) and the Elkins Mountain School received their guaranteed constitutional right to an education, the State Superintendent of Schools and State Board of Education, with support from the State Legislature, moved to provide direct educational services in these facilities. The state of the education programs in these facilities was very deficient, and the Office of Institutional Education Programs has worked during the past decade to provide programs and services which meet federal and state standards and regulations. As a result of the success in the upgrading of the education programs in these facilities, the Legislature has subsequently added four (4) additional DHHR residential institutions for which the State Board of Education is responsible for direct educational services. The Department is presently responsible for the education in seven (7) DHHR residential foster care institutions. In 1996, the State Legislature enacted a statute, WV Code 18-2-13h, codifying the Departments responsibility for education in these types of facilities.
Juvenile Detention Education Programs
In 1998, as a result of the substandard education programs in short-term juvenile detention facilities, the State Legislature again turned to the Department of Education to upgrade and reform educational services in these institutions. In partnership with the Division of Juvenile Services, the Office of Institutional Education Programs has successfully upgraded the education programs in the states five juvenile detention facilities and is actively working to open education programs in the new detention facilities presently nearing completion.
In the fiscal year 2001-02, the Department of Education’s Office of Institutional Education Programs provided educational services to over 6,000 institutionalized juveniles and adults. The State Department of Education and State Board of Education have assumed an important role in protecting the constitutional rights of institutionalized persons by providing programs and services that help change their lives. Moreover, the results of studies and data collected by the Department indicate that education in institutions has reduced recidivism and is cost effective.
Today, OIEP is the central area most responsible for institutional education in both adult correctional facilities and juvenile centers in West Virginia.
The mission is more fully described in the following manner:
Virginia Department of Education
Office of Institutional Education Programs
Building 6, Room 728
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
Charleston, WV 25305-0330
Phone: (304) 558-8833
Fax: (304) 558-5042